By Paul Gotham
If an advanced statistic existed for the player likely to get the most ink on opposing scouting reports, Saint Joseph’s DeAndre Bembry would lead the category. In a down year for Saint Joseph’s, Bembry gains the most attention from opponents. But despite the focus, Bembry continues to produce.
“We always emphasize when he has the ball to make sure you have two or three guys covering him taking an extra step to him,” said St. Bonaventure head Mark Schmidt. “But when he’s playing the way he’s playing, if he’s not the best player, he’s one of the top five players in our league.”
Bembry scored a career-high 27 on 9 of 16 shooting including 6 of 9 behind the arc in a 70-61 loss at St. Bonaventure on January 18th.
“When he’s doing that, it’s like pick your poison,” Schmidt said of Bembry’s six 3-pointers. “He’s got a great handle. He can break you down. He’s got a good middle game. When he’s shooting the ball from the three, he’s almost unguardable.”
The Patrick School product followed that with a pair of 25-point performances one in a 62-56 win over UMass when he again connected on 9 of 16 from the floor.
“He comes up with big plays on his own whether it’s offensive rebounds, running the floor in transition, defensive rebounds and pushing it on his own for easy ones,” noted UMass head coach Derek Kellogg. “To game plan for him is tough. He’s capable of scoring in a lot of different ways, and it’s not necessarily the play the team is doing. That makes an interesting matchup.”
Bembry also grabbed eight rebounds, handed out seven assists, blocked three shots and collected five steals against the Minutemen.
“He’s become one of the better players in our conference because of all the things he can do,” Kellogg added.
But as the seventh-year UMass coach noted it’s more than that.
“He does a lot of the intangibles that don’t show up on the stat sheet. He’s a tough matchup, an interesting matchup.”
Yes, Bembry leads the Hawks in points (17.5 per game), rebounds (6.5), assists (3.1), steals (1.9) and blocks (1.2). But his production has been borne out of necessity. The graduation of three starters – Langston Galloway, Halil Kanacevic and Ronald Roberts – from last year’s Atlantic 10 champion left a gaping hole in Phil Martelli’s offense. Add to that the loss of Papa Ndao in the pre-season, and the burden to produce fell on Bembry.
“We’re asked every week ‘is he trying to do too much?’,” Martelli said during a recent Atlantic 10 tele-conference. “He better do too much because we’re just inexperienced around him. We have really, really leaned on him.”
In 18 games this year, Bembry has netted double figures on 16 occasions. His only single-digit outings came in the first and third games of the season.
“In the beginning of the year, I made some mistakes because he was forced to take shots that he’s not comfortable with,” Martelli added. “He’s not a volume shooter. We were forcing him in the beginning of the year to be a volume shooter, and that hurt him early.”
Bembry has topped the 20-point mark six times in his last ten games.
“If you crowd him, he’s going by you, and he’s a good enough shooter to keep you honest,” stated Fordham coach Tom Pecora. “When his feet are set, he has the ability to elevate and knock down shots. He’s a tremendous challenge. In transition, he’s as good as it gets. He’s great at attacking the basket and using his length and skill set to get to the rim and finish plays.”
Saint Joseph’s (8-10/2-4 A-10) continue conference play Tuesday night against their Big 5 rival La Salle (10-9/2-4).